Congress recently passed a host of improvements aimed at reducing the risk of fatal tractor-trailer accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere. But much work remains to be done.
The $105 billion 2013-2014 transportation bill (MAP-21: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), was signed by President Obama in July and is the first long-term highway authorization act passed since 2005.
Among the biggest improvements: The creation of a database for drug test results and the electronic logging of drive time. "These rules, along with the new drug and alcohol database, will go a long way towards reducing truck/car fatalities in America," said Steve Owings, who founded RoadSafe America with his wife after their son was killed in an accident involving a commercial semi.
Trucking accident lawyers understand there are many other improvements that could be made to reduce the risks for millions of motorists who share the road with trucks.
Better Drug Testing: Even once a drug-testing database is up and running, a Congressional report indicates these federal tests are easily beat. Testing of hair (instead of urine) would drastically increase accountability. The other serious concern is medical exemptions for narcotic pain medication. There are safety concerns about allowing truckers to drive while using narcotic painkillers -- even with a note from their doctor.
Collision Avoidance and Adaptive Cruise Control: Proven technologies, including speed-limiters, should be adapted to help improve safety.
Liability: Shippers and receivers must be held more accountable. The owner of freight has an obligation to ensure its safe transport. Entities hiring truckers to transport goods must be encouraged to put safety ahead of the cheapest transport option.
Trucker Health: The new law will establish a database of certified medical examiners. These doctors will be recognized by the USDOT as qualified to give annual trucker physicals. Under the current system, many drivers allegedly are paying unethical practitioners for the medical results they need to continue driving. However, there are a number of other serious health concerns -- including sleep apnea -- that need to be addressed by federal safety officials.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was formed in 2000 with a primary mission of preventing commercial motor-vehicle related fatalities and injuries and continues to take steps to improve safety. This month, it announced that it was expanding its Pre-Employment Screening Program. While the system allows potential employers to access a driver's immediate past history of accidents and inspections, it requires the driver's written permission.
The system also cannot be used to check the status of current employees -- only drivers under consideration for hire. Moving forward, regardless of who wins the election in November, there must be a renewed focus on the effort to pass some of these common-sense approaches meant to reduce the risk of Tennessee trucking accidents and serious and fatal commercial driving accidents nationwide.
If you are involved in a Tennessee traffic accident, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights at (865) 524-5657.
Tennessee Supreme Court Rejects Emotional Distress Claim Against Uninsured Motorist Policy - Garrison v. Bickford, Published by Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., Oct. 5, 2012.